26 March 2006

Kosovo opposition leader insists talks must lead to independence (2/15)

AP, Feb 15, 2006 9:00 AM


SKOPJE, Macedonia-A senior Kosovo opposition leader and former head of the ethnic Albanian rebel force said Wednesday that forthcoming talks on the future status of the U.N.-run province should lead to full independence.


"I believe in an independent Kosovo," said Democratic Party leader Hashim Thaci, the former head of the rebel Kosovo Liberation Army.


U.N.-mediated talks on the future of Kosovo are due to open in Vienna on Feb. 20.


Speaking after talks in Skopje with Macedonian Prime Minister Vlado Buckovski, Thaci also voiced backing for Macedonia's bid for European Union membership.


Although officially still a province of Serbia, Kosovo has been run by the United Nations since 1999, when NATO bombing forced Serb troops to halt a crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists there.


Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority has rejected offers of broad autonomy, demanding full independence. The province's Serb minority insists Kosovo should remain part of Serbia.